Erv Wilson

From Microtonal

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Erv Wilson in his Garden

Ervin Wilson (June 11, 1928 – December 8, 2016[1]) was a Mexican/American (dual citizen) music theorist.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Ervin Wilson was born in a remote area of northwest Chihuahua, Mexico, where he lived until the age of fifteen. His mother taught him to play the reed organ and to read musical notation. He began to compose at an early age, but immediately discovered that some of the sounds he was hearing mentally could not be reproduced by the conventional intervals of the organ. As a teenager he began to read books on Indian music, developing an interest in concepts of raga. While he was in the Air Force in Japan, a chance meeting with a total stranger introduced him to musical harmonics, which changed the course of his life and work. Influenced by the work of Joseph Yasser, Wilson began to think of the musical scale as a living process—like a crystal or plant. He has been mentor to many composers and instrument builders.

Works[edit | edit source]

Despite his avoidance of academia, Wilson has been influential on those interested in microtonal music and just intonation, especially in the areas of scale, keyboard, and notation design. Among his developments are Moments of Symmetry,[2][3] Combination Product Sets,[4] Golden Horograms, scales based on recurrence relations (scales of "Mt. Meru"), and mapping scales to the generalized keyboard. He cites Augusto Novaro and Joseph Yasser as influences. Wilson built instruments and explored the resources of 31 and 41 equal divisions of the octave. He supported the work of Harry Partch, helped build the Quadrangularis Reversum,[5] and provided diagrams for Partch's book Genesis of a Music.

The goal of his research with scales is to make them musically accessible to the composer and the listener. "I sculpt in the architecture of the scale. Other people come along and animate it." [6]

Musicians influenced by Wilson[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Ervin McDonald Wilson Obituary". Ventura County Star. 2016-12-13. Retrieved 2016-12-13. 
  2. Chalmers, John (1975). "Cyclic Scales". Xenharmonikôn. 4: 69–78. 
  3. Wilson, Erv (1975), Letter to John Chalmers re "the basic structure of moments of symmetry." <>
  4. Wilson, Erv (1986). "The Marwa Permutations". Xenharmonikôn. 9: 1–38. 
  5. Gilmore, Bob (1998). Harry Partch: A Biography. Yale University Press. p. 330. ISBN 0-300-06521-3. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Alves, Bill (2001-04-06). Biographies of Conference Participants. Microfest 2001: Conference and Festival of Music in Alternate Tunings. Claremont, CA: Claremont Colleges. 
  7. "Microtones and Macchiatos in Eagle Rock". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. 

External links[edit | edit source]

YouTube videos[edit | edit source]

See for instance

Description: “Erv Wilson is asked for a simple explanation of his work as if he is explaining it to a child. Instead, he is more interested in what an uncorrupted child understands before we all got so smart.”
Description: “ Composer Kraig Grady talks about his long association with Erv Wilson and explains some of his work including Moments of Symmetry, Combination Product Sets, the Scales of Mount Meru and the generalized keyboard. He describes Erv Wilson as the most influential person in his life both musically and philosophically, the realization of his his tunings and acoustical instruments, and the documentation of his work. According to Kraig Grady, Erv Wilson's main accomplishments are almost like a Unified Field Theory of microtonality mapping tonal terrain and plotting different types of scales of any size or interval you may want to use. The music in the video is composed by Kraig Grady who also maintains the Wilson archives. The film is by Stephen James Taylor. For more info on the Erv Wilson documentary Surfing the Sonic Sky
Description: “Take a walk with UC San Diego astrobiologist, Probiotic Chemist, and Microtonal Music Theorist, Dr. John H. Chalmers, as he describes the musical mathematics of some of Erv Wilson's pitch structures. He describes Erv Wilson as "the most intuitive" mathematician that he has ever known and describes how this intuition led him to understand sophisticated mathematics done formally by others. The correspondence of projections of scales to projections of higher order polytopes and polychorons, the six dimensional eikosany projections, the equivalence of the Scale Tree mathematically to either the Viggo Brun, the subtractive version of the Euclidean algorithm, or "continued fractions", multi-dimensional geometry, higher arithmetic, discrete mathematics, combinatorial math all just came to Erv Wilson intuitively in his charting of galaxies of pitch structures. Directed, edited, and music scored by Stephen James Taylor. The music in the Dr. John H. Chalmers Interview employs Erv Wilson's CoPrime Grid, Moments of Symmetry, and 31 Equal Temperament.”
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